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Google+ passes Twitter to become world's second largest social network

Google+ has passed Twitter and YouTube to become the world's second largest social network, beaten only by Facebook, according to market research firm Trendstream's Global Web Index (GWI).

Despite early reports declaring the social network a failing enterprise, Google+ attracted some 343 million monthly active users in the fourth quarter of 2012, up 27 per cent from the year prior. The firm defined active users as those who have used or contributed to the site in the past month. In recent months, Google has more closely tied Google+ to its other services, so signing up for a Gmail account means creating a Google+ profile, for example.

Google's uber-popular video sharing site YouTube ranked as the world's third-largest social network with about 300 million active users, followed by fourth placed Twitter with 288 million active users. Facebook is still by far the most popular social network, with 693 million active users around the world, according to the Global Web Index.

"2012 saw Facebook shrug off the potential for Facebook fatigue and saturation in a spectacular way with active users growing 33 per cent," Global Web Index Consulting director Brett Petersen said in a statement. A staggering 51 per cent of the global Internet population now actively uses Facebook on a monthly basis.

But no other social network has gained more active users in recent months than Twitter. "The fastest growing network in 2013 in terms of 'Active Usage' was Twitter, which grew 40 per cent across our 31 markets," Petersen wrote.

21 per cent of global Internet users now actively use Twitter, while another 21 per cent actively use YouTube, and 25 per cent actively use Google+.

Meanwhile, the growth of Facebook, Google+, and other global social-networking platforms was bad news for smaller sites. Many localised social-networking services like Germany's MeinVz, the Netherland's Hyves, and France's Copains d'Avant saw a dip in usage. Local Chinese services saw the largest declines across the board, with the popular Tencent Weibo falling 57 per cent.